You can probably use millions of words to describe employers as a whole, but ‘subtle’ isn’t one of them. Recently Wisconsin took up a bill to make it illegal for employers to force job seekers to hand over their social media passwords, making Wisconsin (at least at the time of this writing) the 15th state to do so. My guess is that by the time you read this, it will be illegal all across the country.
And, as I’m sure you can imagine, I find this situation tragic and deplorable. There was a time when the notion of employee privacy didn’t exist. Employers, who were often called ‘lords’ or ‘dukes,’ literally owned their employees. Then the printed word came along, ordinary people got the opportunity to express their opinions, and everything’s been going downhill since then. In case you disagree with my assessment of the world, I submit the deplorable state of the castle-building sector as proof that I’m right.
But just because the Middle Ages have come and gone doesn’t mean that you have to change with the times. So in the spirit of being the lord and master of all you survey, here are a few things you can do to make sure your employees know that you’re watching their every move.
Require All Your Employees To Carry See-Through Bags and Purses! Some places actually do this. I suppose I can understand it if you work with experimental drugs or government secrets or any other highly-sensitive material – but really, isn’t everything highly-sensitive? And besides, your employees are sure to appreciate the fact that you’re interested in the kind of gum they chew and the medications they have. I, for one, love it when people are aware that I’m expecting some kind of imminent gastric emergency. And if you want to ramp this up a notch, make people wear see-through clothes!
Enforce a Door-Always-Open Policy! This is a lot easier if you don’t give your employees the luxury of doors. Sometimes people need to make personal phone calls on company time, especially since doctors and banks and schools and pharmacies have a really annoying habit of only being open during the same hours that your business is. And sometimes people would prefer to make certain business calls without everyone else on the floor hearing everything that’s being said. But just because people want something doesn’t mean they should always get it, does it? I mean, your kids probably want ice cream for dinner, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Some of you might be tempted to argue that I’m making a comparison between two things that shouldn’t be compared to oneanother, but I don’t see why I’d care about the opinion of someone whose kids are as ill-behaved as I’m sure yours are.
Monitor Your Employees’ Emails to an Excessive Degree! It’s one thing to monitor phone calls for training purposes and quality assurance. It’s pretty much the same thing to monitor randomly selected emails for the same reason. But it’s way better to make so many comments about your employees’ emails that they eventually loathe the need to send any. Possible options include correcting their grammar, criticizing the time of day (or night) that they sent a particular missive, or anything else that reeks of micromanagement.
Ultimately, the invasion of privacy is an implicit statement that you do not trust the people who work for you. And you shouldn’t! Seriously, do you know how many times peasants rose up and rebelled against their lords and masters? It happened a lot, but it would have happened a lot less often if all those kings and duchesses had had access to phone records and email logs and all the other pieces of surveillance you have at your disposal. If you don’t use them, then don’t be surprised if you’re someday smacked in the face by an angry guy with a poleax.
Man, I wish we could bring the Middle Ages back. Those were the good old days. And I know I’m not alone. I’ve got a bunch of friends who work as elves in Renaissance fairs, and they really like it.